Iceland's geothermal reserves underestimated? Skip to content

Iceland’s geothermal reserves underestimated?

The National Energy Authority and other major Icelandic energy companies plan to drill a five kilometer deep research hole to estimate the geothermal reserves of the country. The Icelandic Broadcasting Service, RÚV, reports that some experts believe that that energy reserves in high temperature areas are substantially underestimated. It is believed that it may be possible to harness substantially greater amounts of energy than previously thought.

The deepest drill holes on geothermal areas in Iceland are 3 kilometers, and, until now, it has been believed that geothermal energy reserves amount to 20 terawatthours. In comparison, the energy reserves of hydropower is believed to be 30 terawatthours. When the power plant Kárahnjúkar is completed less than half of the hydroelectric power in Iceland will be utilized.

The National Energy Authority (Orkustofnun), the National Power Company (Landsvirkjun), Reykjavik Energy (Orkuveita Reykjavíkur) and Hitaveita Suðurnesja have been planning the project for over three years. The idea behind the project is to discover the real energy reserves in the high temperature areas by drilling deeper than has ever been done in Iceland. They plan to drill down to the base of high temperature systems and explore the possible utilization of geothermal energy there. If it is possible to harness the energy at this level then Iceland’s usable reserves could be ten times more than once believed.

There could however be technical hurdles to overcome, and the expenses could be prohibitive. But the scientific merits are not in dispute reports RÚV.

The drilling will begin at the geothermal area on Reykjanes this year. Hitaveita Sudurnesja will drill down to 3 km. It will take another two years to drill down to 4 kilometers. In 2007-8 the hole will eventually be drilled down to 5 kilometers.

The energy companies contribute funds to the project and have also received grants from abroad. The government has also agreed to contribute money to the project for the next four years. The expected total cost amounts to ISK 1.9 billion.

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